Lawrence focuses on Fox River and cleanup

Valeska Okragly

The Volunteer and Community Service Center had a successful volunteer program this past weekend. Many Lawrentians may have seen the giant leaf-covered posters for All Campus Environmental (ACE) Day. ACE Day was organized by Brian Hilgeman, the one-time event coordinator at the VCSC.

Hilgeman decided to focus on volunteer opportunities centered on the environment because of his “own interest in environmental issues as well as the lack of environmental service projects off campus.”

He explained further by saying, “I know that people can get involved with groups like Greenfire and the committee on environmental responsibility in LUCC, but there aren’t too many opportunities to actually benefit the environment outside of campus so I figured that this would be an interesting and unique project for our campus.”

With these ideas in mind, Scarff professor George Meyer kicked off ACE Day on the night of Friday, Nov. 1 with a lecture. Meyer is the former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He discussed the proposed Fox River Integrated Management Plan to gradually get rid of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) deposited by the paper companies.

By 1971, there had been 7 million pounds of PCBs poured into various spots on the Fox River by the paper companies. These PCBs went slowly up the food chain and started causing problems with animals, harming reproduction and the immune system and causing developmental and behavioral defects.

PCBs do not breakdown in the water and will only be ingested by the wildlife by the river. This imposed health risks in people that frequently eat fish from the river and Green Bay.

Due to these high concentrations, the Wisconsin DNR decided to try to make a river clean up plan. The river was broken up into five sections.

The first section, at the river source, has high levels of PCBs at 1850 kg. The second section is faster moving so only has about 110 kg. This is the section that runs by our school. The third section, which runs by DePere, has 1250 kg because it is slower moving and more sedimentation. The fourth unit has 26,650 kg because it is in the slow moving water right next to Green Bay. Green Bay is the fifth operation unit and has about 20,000 kg dispersed among 810,000,000 cubic yards.

There was much discussion in Wisconsin on how to do a clean-up. Some proposed a monitored natural recovery. Others thought that just covering up the PCB would stop the problem, but the fact of erosion stopped this idea.

The DNR organized meetings to discuss the clean-up process. The proposed process will be hydraulic dredging of the PCBs.

These will then be processed and de-watered. This de-watered sediment will then be placed in approved land fills.

Due to these steps, the DNR hopes to take off the limit of fish consumption in nine years.

The entire process will cost about $58 million dollars. This proposal will again go to a series of town meetings to respond to public input. The final formal plan will be announced Dec. 15, 2002.